As a mother, have you felt like you are missing opportunities to get involved in worship or other spiritual activities because you are always taking care of children? I certainly do.
About a decade ago, for several summers in a row, our family would take a trip to a small camp in northern Indiana belonging to the Lutheran Church. Despite the fact that we were crazy Catholics, they invited Chris to lead the ministry for their group of teens. At the time, we had 6 - 7 kids. We always had to transport the Graco portable crib and figure out sleeping arrangements since we all couldn’t fit in one room. The facility at this camp was pretty updated. The entire group slept in one 3 story “lodge” made up of large rooms holding several beds. Our rooms were always right down the hallway from their central meeting room. I always found it a challenge to get the children to sleep with all of the nightly activities.
We have lots of great memories associated with those trips. We would visit the cute Amish town called Shipsshewana each summer. We would stop at yard sales along the way. We ate deliciously bad cereal that I wouldn’t buy at home. There was lots of lake swimming and sand castles. And the final year we visited, my oldest daughters were at the age to participate in their annual mud walk. They had to duck tape their pants onto their waists and duck tape their tennis shoes onto their feet or else they would end up loosing both in the waist high mud.
But, the parts of the week I cherished most were the evening praise and worship prayer times that Chris would lead every night. I was starving for spiritual activity. Chris got plenty of opportunities to relax in the presence of God. He was not hurting for fellowship with fellow Christians during unifying worship. I, on the other hand, rarely got the chance to put away my motherly responsibilities and rest as a child in the arms of Christ.
Each year at the camp, I would anticipate those moments. I would hope that my children would fall asleep early and easily so I could join the group in worship, but it never happened. Each year I would feel frustrated. That opportunity was right within my grasp; yet still out of reach. Sure, I could hear the music and singing from my room, but I longed for participation.... until one night. God visited me personally that night, in my heart, as I lay cuddled up with my babes in our dark lonely rooms.
His patient, gentle voice brought peace to my heart. He reminded me that my greatest act of worship at that moment was to be a mother to my children. The longing and ache would one day find it’s satisfaction, but during that season of my life, I was honoring God better by holding my children than any amount of praise and worship music could produce. He told me to seek consolation and communion with Christ in the solitude of my heart. When my heart was a peace, communion with God was possible there. Sure, physical fellowship with other Christians is important, but when that was not possible, I needed to retire to the quiet place in my heart where God was waiting for me to find Him.
As my life has progressed and the seasons of it has changed, I have received the blessing of ample opportunities to join in worship. But truth be told, they don’t compare to that quiet corner of my heart. Because I learned to find solace in my own solitude, I can escape to that place, even when surrounded by others in collective worship.
Sure... it can be rather irritating when I am in the midst of chaos, crying, and craziness, dealing with the herd of children who like to take advantage of the fact that dad is not home and my husband calls with a voice filled with joy and peace. Sure.. when he speaks the words, “Honey, I just want you to know that I prayed for you tonight at mass and will pray for you while I am in adoration,” I want to reach through the phone and strangle him. I would love to feel that sense of peace instead of the mayhem I am experiencing at that moment. However, experience has taught me that my act of worship may be louder, lonelier, and less “spiritual”, but it is powerful and precisely what I need to be doing in that instant.
The bottom line is that as mothers, the hidden place in our heart is a holy place. It is there where we find God. It is there where we find peace. It is there where we give worship. Therefore, the best worship we can perform is not wrapped up in beautiful music or communal prayer; rather, it is found in the solitude of our hearts when they are at peace with the will of God.